Monday, February 26, 2007

John Ashcroft Wines & Dines Justice Employees With Pizza

A pizza luncheon to be hosted this Wednesday by former Attorney General turned consultant John Ashcroft for some of his old political appointees has raised eyebrows in the Justice Department's ethics office, U.S. News has learned. The ethics office, which provides Justice employees with guidance on a wide range of ethics questions, has not instructed invitees not to attend the lunch.

However, it has "advised invitees to consider the appearance of attending such an event," Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse told U.S. News. But Juleanna Glover Weiss, an adviser and spokesperson for his consulting firm, told U.S. News that "General Ashcroft has abided by the letter and spirit of all post government service ethics restrictions." Wednesday's lunch, Weiss said, "is just a small social gathering."

Executive branch employees must comply with stringent standards of ethical conduct pertaining to accepting gifts or items of monetary value from anyone wanting to do official business with their agency, including their old colleagues and bosses. The ethics office has told political appointees at Justice that if they attend the Ashcroft pizza luncheon, it would "count toward the $20/occasion and $50/year limits."

I have a few questions. Are they measuring the gift by the slice. Does the coke count? What if they order a pitcher, and Murray in accounting drinks most of it? That being said, I also wonder if they take special requests, such as using crisco in the dough instead of olive oil. Ashcroft is a big fan of that product, and I hear he still has some pull.